There’s something to be said about games that allow us to rise to the status of gods amongst lesser creatures–Lemmings, for example, or the inventive Xbox Live Arcade game From Dust. The responsibility attached to ensuring the creatures you nurture is weighty, but also fleeting. At any moment you may decide to turn on your followers and burn them where they stand, like a vengeful giant with ants and a magnifying glass. Or you may decide to dote on them and ensure their many needs are met. In the case of iPad puzzler Band Together, you encounter a bit of both extremes.
Band Together finds you taking up the role of a neglected child who lives an unhappy life. You are often alone, and like many people do when we find ourselves with vast expanses of time, you explore. The attic’s usually ripe with new discoveries, and today you have just made one of your biggest finds yet: a small group of cardboard beings that seem to revere you as their all-powerful leader.
Wide eyed and ready for service.
The diminutive Bandies, as the child refers to them, are then subjected to experiment after experiment (30 tests, to be exact) that put them through their paces, examining just how far the Bandies will go to please their benevolent leader. Across these homemade stages hastily but meticulously constructed from cardboard, the Bandies’ limits of obedience are tested. How far will they go to navigate from point A to point B with you as their guide, despite potentially dangerous odds?
Each cardboard arena is rife with puzzles meant to test the Bandies, and the entire play space takes up the whole of the iPad’s real estate. You’re tasked with ensuring the little guys follow you, but there’s a twist: the Bandies remain inanimate objects unless exposed to light. Thus, the ingenious discovery of the “candle cap” comes into play, otherwise, like your computer, they’re “sleeping.”
Perfectly timed taps and maneuvers lead the Bandies through death traps via popsicle stick-activated plates and a vast amount of other homemade nuances. If you aren’t diligent enough to steer the Bandies in the right direction, there will be casualties, and as their great “god” you want to try to help your (admittedly creepy) new race conquer the trials you’ve conjured up… right? Sometimes you’ll be faced with solutions to puzzles that don’t forecast a happy ending. In fact, sometimes you’ll have to make sacrifices to ensure the survival of the rest by letting a few fall to the spikes or pencils lining the bottom of some areas.
Gather ’round the candle cap, friends.
But sometimes, numerous Bandie deaths won’t be through any fault of your own, but because of tricky situations and sticky mechanics. Sometimes you’ll lose men as they slip off what should be a perfectly stable platform into the pencil tips below, or you’ll be unable to make precise jumps the way you need to in order to get your group of Bandies across a chasm. This stems from troubling non-tactile controls and iffy design decisions. And on the other hand, some of Band Together’s puzzles simply aren’t all that challenging. It’s quite simple to make the connection between what is required of you and what should be done, making the 30 stages fly by much quicker than they should.
The aesthetics are all there, though. The protagonist, the “mad scientist” of sorts, painstakingly details each experiment in hand-written journal pages and the Bandies themselves are appropriately creepy and unreal. Everything is quite on point, which is what makes the simplicity of the puzzles themselves and the random control difficulties here and there that much more disappointing. With a bit more polish and elbow grease, Band Together could have transcended “neat little puzzler” designation to “Must-Have gem” status. Perhaps with a few updates and additional content it could be catapulted into that category, but for now we’ll call it a peculiar puzzler with an intriguing God complex.